In October 2012, the African Union Headquarters was highly packed with representatives from all member states that make up the union.
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was taking oath as new chairperson of the Union.
However, behind the scenes, something deadly was being brewed. There was a highly organised plan to assassinate Dlamini-Zuma.
South African Intelligence had reliably landed on details of this sinister plot.
And for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had for that period briefly moved to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and would reside at Sheraton Hotel.
Intelligence analysts disclosed that South Africa has for long been entangled and suffering the effects of international spying where several countries have amassed covert officers as scramble for Africa continues.
“Everyone is working for someone else,” says former head of the South African secret service, Mo Shaik.
For example, in an October 2009 report by South Africa’s intelligence service, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), on operations in Africa, it was noted that “Foreign governments and their intelligence services strive to weaken the state and undermine South Africa’s sovereignty. Continuing lack of an acceptable standard of security … increases the risk.”
It is from this same report that it was discovered there was an apparent assassination plot in Ethiopia against the South African politician Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, days after she became the new chair of the African Union Commission.
After this cable leaked about the assassination plot, the head of South Africa’s station in Addis Ababa was immediately informed of the plan. However, he was instructed not to give details to the Ethiopians.
The bodyguards responsible for protecting Dlamini-Zuma and the surrounding vicinity at her hotel eventually leaked this info to the Ethiopians.
Since the food at Sheraton hotel was very expensive and not affordable to Dlamini-Zuma body guards, they informed the Ethiopian security that they were walking to buy food and water outside Sheraton fence.
The guards protecting Dlamini-Zuma had spent almost four days sleeping in the corridors of the hotel without food or water because with their pocket money could not afford any single item on the menu.
The only option was to walk out of Sheraton and find cheap food and water at small restaurants outside.
Strategically, the body guards were intentionally set up in a food crisis trap.
The plan was that if the body guards get hungry and thirsty, they would walk away to find food and water leaving the target unattended to, thus the assassins would swing into action.
According to the leaked cable, the date for this assassination had been set for October 24.
This was followed by confusion, a series of crisis meetings, one after the other and the failure to find the would-be assassins.
This prompted South Africa’s top Spy in Addis Ababa warning against releasing identities of the assassins.
However, after a series of meetings and confusion by the South African Post in Addis Ababa, it was concluded that, “It is requested by the Station that a determination be made on how soon the names should be shared with the host service as it wants to avoid any diplomatic embarrassment if anything takes place.”
Moments into this situation, the Ethiopian Intelligence deployed an extra four Special Forces to guard the AU chair that was under an eminent assassination.
After intense pressure between the two governments, South Africa finally handed over a list of suspects and Ethiopian intelligence blamed Sudan but was unable to link the names with Khartoum.